Saturday the dynamic duos of Colin and Brett and John L and I went out for a Berks PA 40K Doubles Tournament at Railyard Hobbies. First of all, that place is amazing. I haven’t been to the Railyard before, and it blew my mind. It’s ridiculously huge, and the terrain building supplies are all but endless. Definitely a good tournament venue, and though a bit out of the way from Center City Philly, potentially worth the trip for terrain materials and tools.
Armies were 1500 points per player, battle forged but no other restrictions. Both players on a team fielded a warlord. All partners were treated as Allies of Convenience. A single psychic warp charge pool was shared.
Eight teams showed, with various Marines, Imperial Guard, Daemons and Chaos Marines, a small Eldar presence, Necrons, some Imperial Knights, a couple more Knights dropping out of a Thunderhawk, and oh yeah a C’Tan and his buddies who just happen to also be Knights. Photos are in the Flickr gallery.
John and I fielded what I feel is a well balanced and relatively normal army. Originally we were going to divide into John on offense and me on defense. But then we were both busy and didn’t coordinate at all, so we wound up with a combined thrust across backfield, midfield, and the frontline.
On the Raukaan side:
- Epistolary w/ The Gorgon’s Chain
- Ironclad Dreadnought w/ Drop Pod
- Sternguard x5 w/ 5x Combi-Melta, Drop Pod
- Tacticals x10 w/ Meltagun, Lascannon, Lascannon Razorback
- Tacticals x10 w/ Meltagun, Lascannon, Lascannon Razorback
- Stormtalon Gunship
- Stormtalon Gunship
- Centurion Devastators (Grav-Cannons and Grav-Amps, Hurricane Bolters)
On the Kingbreakers side:
- Captain Angholan (Vulkan)
- Squad Harmon (Sternguard x5 w/ 3x Combi-Melta, Drop Pod)
- Squad Scolirus (Tacticals x10 w/ Powerfist, Flamer, Missile Launcher, Drop Pod)
- Squad Harbinger (Tacticals x5 w/ Combi-Melta, Meltagun, Meltabombs, Drop Pod)
- Scouts x5 w/ Sniper Rifles
- Devastators w/ 2x Plasmacannon, 2x Heavy Bolter
- Knight Errant Greenheart (generic melta Knight)
- Inquisitor Hersch (Coteaz)
- Imperial Bunker w/ Void Shield
The few “gimmicks” in there are the Knight, Coteaz, the Void Shield Bunker, and the Librarian with The Gorgon’s Chain hanging out with Centurions hoping to cast Invisibility on them. Well, ok, maybe that’s a couple of gimmicks. But it’s no re-rollable 3++ on a 6 HP model or a world-ending god shard. And it’s a solidly fluffy, Marines-out-for-a-stroll force composition.
First up we faced Ethan and Dustin with Imperial Guard and Space Wolves with a Knight. Mission was Dawn of War (12″), five objectives, double value Slay (effectively quadruple if you tagged both opposing warlords), Linebreaker, and bonus points for killing both opposing warlords while losing none of your own.
These guys did a good job deploying, in part through simply having so much to field. We had no juicy, vulnerable alpha strike targets and wound up taking risky drops against the opposing Knight, tucked hard into a corner and surrounded by Guardsmen. One Combat Squad went well off course but luckily toward our own forces, and bunkered down in ruins on an objective until it had a chance to pop out late-game and help slag a Punisher. The joint Sternguard attack put five hull points on the traitor Knight but didn’t manage to take it down before being summarily blown off the board. A lone surviving veteran did tie up the enemy Knight in combat for a turn or two, though this mostly just protected it from our lascannons.
Our Knight meanwhile trudged forward dropping melta on Terminators and Guard tanks, eventually walking onto an opposing objective. Centurions defended our center table and wiped out Terminators that made it to threatening positions. Squad Scolirus and Raukaan Tacticals burned out Creed and the Guard’s Company Command, but paid for it when Captain Angholan was forced to face the full withering fire of a Punisher at point blank and was mortally wounded. With things looking grim in the mid-game, the Space Wolves and Guardsmen started taking chances on risky reserve drops with terrible results teleporting in and dropping from flyers, further boosting our momentum.
We wound up with all the objectives and secondaries, only missing out on max points by losing my warlord. Unfortunately I took a bunch of chances on Angholan withstanding the Punisher, trying to tank wounds on him rather than his squad. He actually made it through the main gun pretty ok, but I forgot it would also then be shooting heavy bolters and a stubber at him and it was just too much. On the upside, it seemed like almost nobody got this bonus either.
The big thing here was that we had a bunch of weapons to fight Terminators, enough alpha strike and mobility to pen their army up against their back line, and nothing especially fearful of the Guard’s large blasts or heavy weaponry. Our small Combat Squads all over the place made for inefficient blast targets, and a combination of good line-of-sight blockers and the Knight’s shield rendered the missile launcher and lascannon teams largely moot until we could take them out.
Next up was Zack and Brad with Imperial Guard and Grey Knights. Mission was Vanguard deployment (corners) for table quarters control with bonuses for Slay, surviving friendly Warlords, and no enemy units in your deployment zone.
Joint Sternguard blew up a Landraider, dumping out the many Purifiers inside on foot, far removed from our central area. The Sternguard along with reinforcing Raukaan Tacticals and an Ironclad Dreadnought spent the battle in an ongoing fight with them before eventually prevailing. Our Knight got an early lucky hit torching the Grey Knights warlord and his bodyguards. Greenheart and our lascannon teams then wore down a squad of plasmacannon Sentinels before they could target our Centurions. Squad Harbinger put a lot of wounds on a Dreadknight, which then shunted right into the middle of half a dozen Raukaan lascannons. Captain Angholan and Scolirus spent the battle in assault with a group of Bullgryns protecting their Lord Commissar, eventually smashing her. A late arriving Vendetta and Valkyrie harried a thinly held rear table quarter, but were slowly attrited away by Stormtalons and lascannons.
We wound up with max points in this one, controlling all the quarters and picking up the secondaries. This battle was very similar to the previous one given the matchup. Again we were fortunate to have many tools, especially the Centurions and Knight Errant, for taking out Terminators. Zack did a great job of drawing it out with his Guard via harrying thrusts all over the board, but with us largely taking out the Grey Knights early on we just had too much momentum.
I really liked this mission. I wouldn’t want to replace standard objectives with table quarters, but it’s a good mix-in. One thing I liked was that because it’s harder to calculate on the fly, and in some ways easier to swing at the last minute, it can be much less clear who’s ahead and by how much, raising the tension throughout.
Finally we faced Mike and Al with their four Imperial Knights and Necron C’Tan army. Mission was Hammer and Anvil deployment (long axis) for a combination of kill points and objectives, with bonuses for Slay and each surviving troop unit.
All three objectives wound up placed in a short line along the table center cross axis. We mostly positioned far forward, as near to them as we could, and held on as long as possible. Join Sternguard got a good drop on one of the opposing Knights but its rerollable save via the Adamantine Lance formation shrugged it all off. The Knights and C’Tan hung back for several turns pinging away at our threatening weapons before coming forward supported by Night Scythes. From there the forces of good got slowly rolled up.
We picked up a single point for the Raukaan zapping a Night Scythe, and otherwise gave up an obscene amount of points as all our units except one lonely Drop Pod got obliterated. We felt it was a moral victory that we lasted until Turn 7, but the outcome was pretty much foregone from the start. Four Knights with three in an Adamantine Lance, a Transcendant C’Tan, and four Night Scythes with Warriors is a rough force to be looking at across the board. Playing the long axis didn’t help, as it enabled them to lurk out of range of our lascannons for most of the game. I really don’t know how we could have done any better against this army though.
We didn’t come in with any tournament bonuses (early list submission, fully painted, etc.), but it seemed like few people did so that didn’t matter. Despite the third round drubbing, John and I held on for second place by a reasonable margin. First place, our Knights+C’Tan opponents, were ridiculously far ahead. A couple people quietly cheered us as the “non-cheese real winners.” I was happy with how we played throughout, and the final results. Depending on how you consider the NOVA Trios (we got crushed on games but got the 2nd best prize), that maintains what I believe is still a straight record of 2nd place results for me throughout 2014.
A couple more general thoughts.
I’m always hesitant to single out individual units, but it seems very plausible that the Transcendant C’Tan is a gamebreaker. Talking afterward I asked Al what could beat it. He replied “Well, you could buy a Warhound.” I had to work pretty hard to keep a straight face. Eventually he did come up with some other ideas, but they were all generally very specific and substantial purchases.
The Adamantine Lance formation is certainly a huge problem. It makes absolutely no game design sense to take an extremely strong, somewhat undercosted unit like the Imperial Knight, and give a collection of them huge bonuses for no additional points cost. Sure, they have to stay within 3″ of each other to get the effects, but that’s barely a limitation for the group in practice. Some of GW’s formations make rules sense to me as a way to fix or buff underpowered units and armies, like the Stormwing formation. A huge problem in frequently being a deliberate cash grab, like the Tyranid supplements (1, 2, 3), but otherwise solid. Others like the Lance though are definitely detrimental to both the game’s affordability and its play.
The final mission highlighted issues with the scoring approach being used here, and I gather in several of the Berks PA events. Rather than determining games by victory points and then giving tournament points for wins and losses with bonuses for some special conditions, points earned in missions were simply summed throughout. In that last game the entire opposing army would have only given up fourteen kill points total even if we’d somehow managed to destroy everything. Meanwhile, John and I were each fielding that many units. That’s one thing in terms of the problems inherent to kill points missions, but a huge problem for a tournament if that goes directly into the tournament standings. It wouldn’t have mattered, but those last guys got a massive points boost off John & I between the kill points, objectives, and bonuses, unfair to everybody else. In general, tournament points should always at least be capped, preferably normalized.
That matchup was also a good example of where optional continuous scoring can really help balance the game. If we could have scored points throughout by holding objectives then we could have played a more tactical game, sacrificing units to try and hold up the oncoming tide with no expectation of lasting to the end. We all but certainly would have still lost, but potentially we’d have stood at least a chance of not being completed wiped on points, given that our opponents had so few units with which to attempting claiming and holding throughout.
On a final note, three thousand points total is probably too many points for a doubles game. Somewhat counter-intuitively, they tend to run slower anyway. At that many points there’s just a lot going on to begin with, and doubles games can take a very long time. That’s particularly true if at least one side is active in all the phases. It seemed like Colin and Brett really suffered from this, with several of their games cut short when they would have benefited from more turns.
Despite those concerns about the scoring and the serious balance problems built into 40k itself right now, this was a super fun event, well run in a low key but smooth manner and with a great crowd. Berks is going to run another team tournament in January, and I’ll definitely try to make it to that.
Again, more photos are in the gallery.